- Communicational integrity of Russia is ensured by only two latitudinal links: the Trans-Siberia Railway in the south and the Northern Sea Route in the north. Weakening of any of those lines means the loss of the state’s latitudinal link. The NSR development should ensure the possibility of shipping, first of all internal shipping for defence purposes and supply of remote northern areas, as well as exports of oil and gas.
The most pressing challenge today is the renovation of the icebreaking fleet. Russia holds a leading position in construction and designing of icebreaking ships. However, significant efforts on modernization of the icebreaking fleet and replacement of decommissioned vessels are needed to keep this position.
Another priority in the framework of the NSR project is the development of coastal infrastructure including meteorological observation points on the islands and in near-ocean zone, oceanographic and satellite services, rescue services etc. Apart from financing it will require coordinated work of authorities responsible for different elements of the NSR infrastructure.
In the coming years, the highest growth will be seen in transportation of LNG and oil bound for the markets of the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans. In winter 2014, Yamal LNG project accounted for a quarter of the NSR traffic. When the project is fully operational annual exports of LNG and gas condensate are expected to make 17.6 mln t in 2021-2038. Those volumes will be carried by a fleet of 16 Arctic tankers with the assistance of Rosatomflot’s icebreakers. Significant share of traffic will be ensured by Gazprom Neft with the launching of the Novoportovskoye field.
In view of high costs of assistance services and seasonal operation of the NSR as well as the development of rival ways, the potential of the Northern Sea Route as a global transit way should not be overestimated. The capacity of the Suez Canal doubled with the launching of its second lane in August 2015. For comparison: NSR traffic in 2013 totaled 1.4 mln t while the Suez Canal transit, before the second lane was put into operation, was 740 mln t. Yet, with the development of the NSR infrastructure and related services, the northern transit will be in higher demand. In the foreseeable future, this development will be driven by Russian cargo flows.
Contributed to IAA PortNews by press center of the ‘Arctic: Territory of Dialogue’ International Arctic Forum. Read more about the Forum in the Events page >>>>